It’s Time to Extend the New, Safer Queens Boulevard to Rego Park
More than 100 people packed into the cafeteria of P.S. 139 in Rego Park last night to weigh in on the next phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign. There was palpable enthusiasm for extending a safer design for biking and walking farther east, along with signs of potential political challenges ahead.
In the past two years, DOT has overhauled 2.5 miles of the Queens Boulevard service roads in Woodside and Elmhurst, expanding pedestrian space and adding bikeways along the medians while slowing down drivers getting on and off the central roadway.
The results so far have been impressive. On the Woodside section, the number of people biking doubled while pedestrian and cyclist injuries dropped. There have been no fatalities on Queens Boulevard since DOT began redesigning it in 2015.
This year, DOT is looking to extend the redesign from Eliot Avenue to Yellowstone Boulevard.
In small groups facilitated by DOT staffers, attendees shared their concerns and ideas for this 1.3-mile stretch, where 458 people were injured between 2010 and 2014, and two pedestrians have been killed since 2008. Most people at last night’s workshop wanted to bring the same redesign concept to this phase of the project.
At the dozen or so tables in the room, only one had a substantial crowd of naysayers, led by Community Board 6 member Steven Goldberg. At one point, Families for Safe Streets’ Lizi Rahman, whose son Asif was killed biking on Queens Boulevard in 2008, approached the group to share why she supported the bike lanes.
“The car ran over him, and right away he died,” Rahman said. “When I came to visit his crash spot I was struck that there wasn’t a bike lane.”
“He was hit, but who was wrong?” retorted one of the bike lane skeptics.
“The driver,” Rahman responded.
Other CB 6 members were more amenable to the redesign. “It’s the future, it’s going to happen,” CB 6 member Jean Silva said of the bike lanes. Silva was particularly concerned about conflicts between cyclists and motorists at the slip lanes leading on and off the service road.
DOT plans to present a proposal to the board in the spring. Last year, the Elmhurst phase was installed despite being voted down by the local community board, thanks to strong support from Council Member Daniel Dromm and Mayor de Blasio’s decision to move ahead with the project.
Council Member Karen Koslowitz represents Rego Park and Forest Hills. Two years ago she told Streetsblog she would support “whatever it takes to change the name from the Boulevard of Death to the Boulevard of Life,” including the rearrangement of traffic and parking lanes.
Last night she was more circumspect. “Whatever the people want is what I want,” she said. “The safety of Queens Boulevard is a very big concern of mine. If [the bike lane] does come to fruition, we’re going to see how it works out.”
Now that Queens Boulevard has a good bikeway in Woodside and Elmhurst, the connection needs to extend east to serve other Queens neighborhoods.
St. Albans resident Samuel Santaella bikes to the Aldi grocery store near 62nd Drive and Queens Boulevard to save money on MetroCard fares. “Ultimately we just want to be safe riding our bikes, and Queens Boulevard is an important corridor for us,” he said.